Migraine History Linked to Increase in All-Cause Dementia Risk

older woman holding her head
older woman holding her head
Investigators confirmed an association between headache disorders and increased risk for dementia in this pooled meta-analysis; however, the number of studies was small and the population characteristics and study designs were quite heterogenous.

In a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Headache and Pain, researchers from China found that headache may increase the risk for all-cause dementia.

Study investigators searched several online databases for cohort studies that reported incident dementia diagnoses and studies that examined the association between headache disorders and the risk for all-cause dementia or Alzheimer disease (AD), diagnoses that were the primary and secondary outcomes of interest, respectively. A total of 2 retrospective and 4 prospective studiescomprising 291,549 individuals were included in the final meta-analysis.

In the pooled analysis, a history of any headache increased the risk for all-cause dementia by approximately 24% (relative risk [RR] 1.24; 95% CI, 1.09-1.41; P =.001). The incidence of any headache, however, was not associated with a significantly increased risk for AD in the overall analysis (RR 1.47; 95% CI, 0.82-2.63; P =.192). In 3 studies, the RR for an association between migraine and all-cause dementia risk was 1.28 (95% CI, 0.64-2.54). Conversely, 1 study showed that a history of migraine was associated with a significantly increased risk for AD (RR 4.22; 95% CI, 1.59-10.42).

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The small number of included studies and the high heterogeneity of study design and population characteristics across studies represent potential limitations of the analysis.

According to the researchers, the findings from this study “emphasize[s] the need to reveal the mechanisms underlying the link between headache and dementia, which may become all the more evident while improving the quality-of-life of patients with headache disorder.”


Wang J, Xu W, Sun S, Yu S, Fan L. Headache disorder and the risk of dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. J Headache Pain. 2018;19(1):95.